Residential landlord and tenant law is complicated in Kentucky because the Uniform Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA), as enacted by the Kentucky legislature, applies to residential renters in some parts of the Commonwealth, but not in other parts. In Kentucky, URLTA is available as a local government option, to be enacted as local governments see fit, or not. Consequently, whether the provisions apply to any particular residential tenancy depends upon the geographic location of the residence. Generally speaking, the larger urban centers in Kentucky, such as Louisville and Lexington, have locally adopted URLTA but the more rural areas have not.
The URLTA provisions do not apply to commercial and agricultural renters, wherever they may be located in the Commonwealth. URLTA applies only to residential tenancies in areas that have adopted that law locally.
Kentucky landlords have a statutory lien for unpaid rent on the tenant’s personal property, which may be recovered by attachment or by action, KRS 383.010, et seq., even if the rent debtor’s property is in the possession of a third party. KRS 383.020(1) states, “A distress warrant or attachment for rent shall bind, and may be levied upon, any personal property of the original tenant found in the county . . . .” This language indicates the subject personal property of the rent debtor does not necessarily have to be found on the leased premises. This landlord remedy is traditionally known as distraint for rent. The URLTA, on the other hand, abolishes distraint for rent, KRS 383.680, for residential tenants, in those areas where URLTA applies.
Seizing a person’s personal property in the hands of a third party to satisfy a debt for rent has the same look and feel as does a non-wage garnishment, but it has an entirely different statutory foundation.